#698 Abbreviated British Columbia

Everything British Columbia. The Ultimate Book of Lists
by Bethany Lindsay and Andrew Weichel

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia: MacIntyre Purcell Publishing, 2019
$19.95 / 9781772761351

Reviewed by Patrick A. Dunae

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How do you describe a book like this? In the Library and Archives Canada Cataloging in Publication entry, the subject heading for this book is “British Columbia — Miscellanea.” So, we might call this publication a miscellany – a miscellany of things relating to British Columbia. The things are listed, organized, and ranked under headings such as Geography, History, Politics, Crime, Flora and Fauna, Food and Drink, and a dozen other categories.

The publisher of this miscellany, MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Company, is based in the picturesque town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. The firm specializes in this type of book. A few years ago, it published the Vancouver Island Book of Musts, compiled by a popular local historian, Peter Grant. The firm also published Books of Musts – as in 10 Places You Must See and 5 Books You Must Read — for Prince Edward Island and several other provinces. Books of Everything are similar to Books of Musts. Currently, there are Books of Everything for Newfoundland & Labrador, PEI, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia. As well, the firm publishes miscellanies for major cities, thus the Vancouver Book of Everything, Edmonton Book of Everything, and Ottawa Book of Everything. The publisher has found a lucrative niche market and its books are often bestsellers.

Everything British Columbia authors Andrew Weichel and Bethany Lindsay
Author Eve Lazarus, crime story specialist, at MacLeod’s Books, Vancouver. Photo by Rebecca Blissett

The books are formulaic but fun and the concept is simple. Each volume is compiled by one or two editors who are responsible for the bulk of the content, while local authors and media personalities contribute lists on specialized topics. Everything British Columbia: The Ultimate Book of Lists (2019) is assembled by Bethany Lindsay and Andrew Weichel. They are a married couple and journalists in Vancouver. Lindsay has worked for the Vancouver Sun and now writes for CBC News. Weichel has also contributed to the Vancouver Sun and is presently an online producer at CTV Vancouver. It’s not clear how they were chosen for this project because there is no foreword or preface to the book. The Introduction, entitled “10 Things We Love About British Columbia,” is simply a teaser for some of the lists that follow.

Contributor Greg Mansfield, ghost specialist. Photo by Jacy Schindel, CBC

In the Geography section, the editors have mined the Gazetteer of British Columbia to create different lists of BC place names – such as “10 BC Locations That Make Up a Complete Breakfast,” a list that includes Bacon Cove and Fried Egg Lake. The History section opens with a “List of the 7 Best BC Ghost Towns, unilaterally determined by Justin McElroy,” a reporter with CBC Vancouver. In the section on Politics, there is a list of “The Highly Suspicious or Downright Illegal Activities of 8 BC Politicians” [Only eight?!]. Under the section on Crime, Vancouver true-crime historian Eve Lazarus provides a descriptive “List of 10 Bizarre Murders.” Another Vancouver author, Greg Mansfield, contributes a “List of BC’s 10 Most Haunted Places.” And so on and so forth. There are lists of 10 Defunct BC Sports Teams, 10 BC Actors Who Hit It Big, and 10 Wineries that Put BC on the Map. There is also a list of 10 Weird and Wonderful BC Museums.

Justin McElroy, ghost town advisor. Photo courtesy CBC

Inevitably, the book is uneven in some places. In a section entitled “The Concierge Recommends,” guest services staff in upmarket hotels in Vancouver, Victoria, Prince George, and Kelowna recommend ten things to do in their respective cities. What about Kamloops, Nanaimo, and Prince Rupert? Inexplicably, the editors include “10 Words from the Witsuwit’en Language and Their Meanings.” Why not 10 Words from Hul’q’umi’num or 10 Words of Secwepemctsin? The concluding pages of the book include a potpourri of things that will be outdated very soon, such as the listing price of BC’s 10 Most Valuable Homes, The Living Wage for 10 BC Cities, and the Most Popular Baby Names for Boys and Girls in 2018. However, these categories could readily be updated in new editions of the book and possibly the publisher has this in mind.

Ten strong words from the Witsuwit’en: entrance to Unis’tot’en camp, 2017. Photo courtesy of Unis’tot’en camp

Readers will enjoy the compilers’ sense of humour as they present “10 Facts about the Ogopogo – Most of Them True” and describe “10 Gigantic BC Roadside Attractions.” This book, which includes over forty photographs, would be entertaining and instructive for out-of-province visitors and newcomers. It would be helpful for teachers who want to enliven their lessons with information about the coldest, hottest, and wettest places in the province. This miscellany would be handy for organizers of pub trivia quizzes.

The dimensions of the book are: 6 x 9 inches [15 x 23 cm]. It’s probably too large to be a Christmas stocking stuffer, but Everything British Columbia: The Ultimate Book of Lists would be a nice treat under the Christmas tree.

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Patrick Dunae

Patrick Dunae was born in Victoria and lives there now. He has taught courses on the history of British Columbia at the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island University. He is a director of the Vancouver Island Local History Society, which operates Point Ellice House, Victoria’s Historic House Museum, on behalf of the provincial Heritage Branch.

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The Ormsby Review. More Books. More Reviews. More Often.

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

The Ormsby Review is a journal service for serious coverage of B.C. books and authors, hosted by Simon Fraser University. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Wade Davis, Hugh Johnston, Patricia Roy, David Stouck, and Graeme Wynn. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Provincial Government Patron since September 2018: Creative BC

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